LOS ANGELES – Chip Kelly is headed to UCLA with plans to create another Pac-12 powerhouse.
The coach who helped changed college football with his groundbreaking offense at Oregon agreed to a five-year, $23.3 million deal on Saturday to return to the sideline with the Bruins.
Kelly, who turned 54 on Saturday, spent the past year out of coaching after four seasons in the NFL. He entertained serious overtures from Florida this month before deciding to take charge of the sleeping giant of a program at UCLA, which hasn’t won a conference title since 1998.
“I am thrilled to welcome Chip Kelly to Westwood,” UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said. “His success speaks for itself, but more than that, I firmly believe that his passion for the game and his innovative approach to coaching student-athletes make him the perfect fit for our program.”
Kelly replaces Jim Mora, who was fired last Sunday with one game left in his sixth season in Westwood.
Kelly won three conference titles and reached four major bowl games in just four seasons (2009-12) in charge of the Ducks, who were turned into a marvel of exciting football by his no-huddle spread offense and up-tempo approach to almost everything they did.
Oregon went 46-7 during his tenure, reaching the BCS championship game after the 2010 season and also playing in two Rose Bowls and a Fiesta Bowl.
Kelly then went 28-35 with the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers from 2013-16, getting fired from both teams after losing seasons. He was an ESPN football analyst this fall.
The Bruins almost certainly fired Mora early – and ate more than $12 million remaining on his contract through 2021 – because they hoped to land Kelly, the most coveted coach on the college football landscape.
Florida also pursued Kelly to fill their own high-profile job opening. But after the Bruins’ presentation Tuesday, which included input from former UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman and powerful booster Casey Wasserman, Kelly elected to return to the West Coast, where he already has recruiting contacts after years of landing California talent for Oregon.
“It is an absolute honor to join the Bruin Family, and I am grateful to Chancellor (Gene) Block and to Dan Guerrero for this incredible opportunity,” Kelly said in a statement. “UCLA is a world-class institution with a distinguished history in athletics, and we will do our part to uphold its tradition of excellence.”
Kelly’s UCLA contract contains a $9 million reciprocal buyout, the Bruins said. UCLA will introduce Kelly in a news conference on campus Monday.
Jedd Fisch, Mora’s first-year offensive coordinator, served as the Bruins’ interim head coach Friday night when UCLA (6-6, 4-5 Pac-12) beat California 30-27 to earn bowl eligibility for the fifth time in Mora’s six seasons. Fisch was expected to run the Bruins in December through practices and a to-be-determined bowl game.
Kelly likely sees the opportunity to do big things at UCLA, which plays in the Rose Bowl in the nation’s second-largest media market. Although the Bruins are frequently overshadowed by powerhouse rival Southern California, UCLA is hoping Kelly can be the ingredient that tips the balance back toward the Bruins, who had only seven winning records in the previous 14 years.
Although star quarterback Josh Rosen is likely headed to the NFL, Mora leaves behind plenty of elite talent at UCLA, which recently opened the $65 million Wasserman Football Center. The lavish training complex finally provides the Bruins with facilities approaching the standards of their Pac-12 competitors – even Oregon, with its famously impressive trappings backed by Nike boss Phil Knight.
UCLA plays at Oregon on Nov. 3, 2018.
Kelly left Oregon with the school under investigation by the NCAA for recruiting violations. The Ducks eventually got three years of probation. Although the NCAA determined Kelly didn’t know about the violations, he was still given an 18-month show cause order, requiring any school wishing to hire him to justify its decision to the Committee of Infractions. That order has expired.
Kelly jumped to the NFL and the Eagles, but he was fired late in his third season in Philadelphia despite posting winning records in his first two campaigns.
He spent 2016 in charge of the 49ers, but that troubled franchise abruptly fired him last winter after going 2-14.
Kelly becomes the Bruins’ fifth full-time coach since 1995, when Terry Donahue left after winning five Pac-10 titles during 20 seasons. The Bruins won two more league titles in the late 1990s under Bob Toledo, but they haven’t claimed another conference crown or appeared in the Rose Bowl game in nearly two decades.
Mora was arguably the Bruins’ most successful coach since Donahue, going 46-30 and starting off his tenure with four consecutive winning seasons. Mora’s second and third teams tied the modest school record with 10 wins.
But the Bruins declined sharply in the past two seasons. UCLA went 4-8 last year with one of the FBS’ worst offenses. UCLA went undefeated at the Rose Bowl and winless on the road this season. The Bruins won just 10 of their last 27 games under Mora after their 28-23 loss to USC last Saturday night.
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